Strange title for a blog post… It comes from Uncle who helped me reconstruct an old family story.
It was a cold, snowy winter in the late 1960s. Auntie and Uncle and their young son were staying with our family for a few months while Uncle did some professional work in our community. It was an exciting time, as we rarely had such an extended visit with favorite relatives.
But the bad weather kept us all homebound, and between colds and various viruses, there were days that were less than fun. Thankfully Uncle’s grand sense of humor helped us at the worst of times… Like the day when both Auntie and Bubba were at their wits end caring for the household and sick children (five in all, ranging in age from 4 to 16). Uncle offered to tend to all the children and fix dinner (even thought he was not famed for his cooking), sending the women off on one of their favorite adventures – lunch and shopping.
Things went well for most of the afternoon, with sick kids on the mend and playing quietly. But by late afternoon, when the children got hungry, and one came home from school under the weather, Uncle began to panic… He directed one of the older children to care for the child not feeling well, and headed off to the kitchen to begin dinner preparation, leaving the two youngest boys, age 4 or so, playing with Matchbox cars (remember those?) in the den and watching Sesame Street. Things seemed to be under control…
In the meantime, as Uncle got the pasta pots boiling, he saw from the kitchen window that the snow was coming down fast and furious, and began to worry about the two sisters out shopping and driving in such terrible weather. He knew his brother-in-law would be home from work soon, and wanted to make sure that there was enough good food for everyone to eat. The four-year old cousins were engrossed in their TV program and playing with their cars. Uncle threw on another big pot of pasta, not quite sure there would be enough for the crew.
I wandered through the kitchen at one point and Uncle told me he was cooking two boxes of linguini to go with the sauce and asked if I thought it would be enough for everyone. My mother traditionally only used one-pound boxes of pasta, and thinking about Uncle’s question, maybe two pounds wouldn’t be enough. I suggested he cook one more box… Three pounds would be ample.
Not long after, Sesame Street finished and the little boys decided to play a new game, racing their cars across the long coffee table. I heard Uncle caution them to be careful, and the next thing that happened (and no one would ever confess how it happened), the coffee table, covered with a huge collection of Matchbox cars went flying across the hardwood floor of the den and crashed into the glass patio sliding doors! I ran into the room to see two little boys hanging their heads, eyes wide with horror, and Uncle dashing around the corner from the kitchen (covered in pasta, he would never say how…). We all stared at the closed curtains and the coffee table that had contributed to the crash. No one wanted to move. No one wanted to pull back the curtains to assess the damage. We all wanted to pretend it really didn’t happen. Those of us who lived in the house knew our father would not be very happy about this…
So, my brave 13 year old brother went to the curtain to peak. He reported “Pretty bad, but the good news is that none of the glass has fallen out, so maybe it will hold till spring!” Uncle sighed and announced that “… it should hold through dinner, but first we have to figure out what to do with all the pasta that somehow managed to be everywhere in the kitchen.”
So, with the window crisis on hold we all dashed to the kitchen to see what Uncle was talking about… No joke, pasta everywhere!!! The dear man was frantic, knowing that my dad and Auntie and Bubba would be home soon. What could we do with all the pasta? Collectively we came up with a lot of brilliant ideas that we implemented quickly. Some of it went down the garbage disposal, until that got clogged. Some of it we tossed out the kitchen window into the deep snow. (No one would see for many months.) But there was still more than the family needed for dinner and even some extra for the fridge.
Brave brother came up with the classic solution to both dilemmas — we could use the excess linguini to fill in the cracks in the patio door windows and no one would ever know… The funny side of it all brought us to laughing till our sides hurt and the tears flowed… And, that is how dad and Bubba and Auntie found the family when they returned home!
But the story gets better… Dad got home first, and could do nothing but join in with our laughter after her heard the story of our day. Dad and Uncle had a really close bond. Good buddies… And then, Bubba and Auntie came in, silly from drinking a glass of wine, AND wearing beautiful fur jackets that they bought “on sale” at a store going out of business… Dad and Uncle were now clearly in shock, and the kids quietly went to the kitchen and tired to make a dent in the pasta dinner while the adults came to terms with how much money the day had cost them. (That part of the story has never been shared…)
But over the years, The Linguini Massacre is a story our family associates with good times and special memories. It is a classic tale of owning your own mistakes, not pointing fingers, and looking for solutions that might make things better, and mostly, doing your best to laugh when there is no easy fix.
Oh, and by the way, Bubba had purchased five-pound boxes of linguini knowing that we were having house guests for several months. Uncle, with my encouragement, cooked up fifteen pounds of linguini that snowy evening! So, never assume your mother always does things the same way all the time!